The Morning After: PlayStation Classic and iPhone XS


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Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Sony picks up a strategy from Nintendo, and we have our first impressions of the iPhone XS family. It’s Wednesday, so update your old iPhone without fear and take a look at an awe-inspiring early image taken by NASA’s TESS spacecraft.


$100 for 20 gamesPlayStation Classic jumps on the retro trend December 3rd

Apparently Sony has been watching the success of Nintendo’s miniature Classic systems because this holiday season, it’s reaching back for a PlayStation Classic. It’s 45 percent of the size of the original and comes pre-loaded with 20 titles (so far Sony has only confirmed Final Fantasy VII, Tekken 3, Ridge Racer Type 4, Jumping Flash and Wild Arms). It comes with two PS1 controllers (no analog sticks), a virtual memory card and buttons that help change or suspend games, but you’ll have to bring your own USB power adapter.


Expect our full review soon.iPhone XS and XS Max, Day 1: A clear step forward

We’re still in the middle of testing our iPhone XS and XS Max — you can expect our full, detailed review soon. In the meantime, we’ve picked up on a few things that you should definitely keep in mind before these new flagship phones go on sale. So far, the camera is noticeably improved from the iPhone X, and the faster Face ID makes unlocking feel even more magical. If you’re still rocking an older iPhone, either of these would be phenomenal upgrades, but the colorful, fascinating iPhone XR is right around the corner and might be a better bang for your buck.


Has Bose been dethroned?Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones review

These aren’t just a great pair of noise-canceling headphones, they’re quality cans, period. While you used to have to choose between great sound quality and decent noise reduction, the 1000XM3 does both while being a blast to listen to.


Welcome to the current day.Nintendo Switch Online lands

A premium online and multiplayer experience is finally available for the Nintendo Switch. The biggest change subscribers will notice is that their saves are no longer tied to one console (as long as they keep their subscription active) for games that support its new cloud save feature. If you don’t want to pay the $20 annual fee, don’t worry, you’ll still be able to play Fortnite — good to know if you snag the special edition Switch bundle that’s going on sale October 5th with some extra bonuses.


Planned unobsolescence?Don’t be afraid to upgrade your old iPhone to iOS 12

At WWDC this year, Apple said iOS 12 would deliver improved performance on devices as old as 2013’s iPhone 5s. After spending the last day or so playing with iOS 12 on his iPhone 6s, Nathan Ingraham can say that Apple has definitely breathed new life into the device.

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Time to go find some planets.NASA’s TESS spacecraft captures ‘first light’ image

The planet-hunting spacecraft’s four cameras have taken their “first light” image — the first astronomical photo after a telescope has been assembled — showing the satellite’s full field of view. The whole photo, which TESS captured during a 30-minute period on August 7th, shows a dozen constellations. It represents one of the 26 sectors TESS will monitor over the next two years. The spacecraft will observe one sector for 27 days each, with the first half making up the southern sky taking place during its first year.


Produced by Marvel Studios, not Marvel TV.MCU heroes could get their own shows on Disney’s streaming service

According to a report from Variety, Disney may be preparing big-budget TV series featuring characters (and the actors who play them) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. They’d be exclusive for its streaming service that will launch next year and give viewers even more reason to consider it as a Netflix complement or alternative. The idea apparently is to focus on second-tier super-powered characters who haven’t had a solo movie, like Scarlet Witch or Loki.

But wait, there’s more…


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PlayStation Classic jumps on the retro trend December 3rd for $100


Sony

With “Classic” game systems occasionally outselling modern ones, Sony is bringing back its own old school system. The PlayStation Classic will launch in December, loaded with 20 “generation-defining” games in their original format for $100 (€99.99 RRP). It’s 45 percent smaller than the original system and uses a virtual memory card for saves. It will arrive with two PS1-era replica controllers from the time before analog sticks for local multiplayer and connect to modern TVs via HDMI-out, but you’ll have to bring your own USB power adapter.

Gallery: PlayStation Classic | 7 Photos

Naturally it doesn’t load any real discs and it doesn’t sound like it will be able to install new games after purchase, but the button and logo layout matches the original console. Pressing “Open” changes the virtual disc so you can swap games, while “Reset” suspends games. Sony’s website hasn’t listed all of the titles that are included, but Final Fantasy VII, Tekken 3, Ridge Racer Type 4, Jumping Flash and Wild Arms are all confirmed, and others will be announced via the PlayStation Blog.

Pre-orders are available now on Best Buy’s website. GameStop.com also shows a listing in its search results, and while the linked page is blank, you can add it directly to your cart. If we see any other listings pop up we will update this post.

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Amazon helps others make accessories for Echo speakers


Engadget

There aren’t many Echo-oriented accessories beyond Amazon’s own Echo Button, but that’s about to change very shortly. Amazon has released a beta Alexa Gadgets Toolkit that lets hardware brands make Echo-focused Bluetooth accessories that respond to Alexa commands. You can have a cuckoo clock that responds to your Echo’s wake word or a notification, a switch that releases dog food after an alarm, or a chime that sounds when time’s up. A future update will even allow visual interaction with music — it’s easy to see a lamp that pulses in sync with Amazon Music tracks.

Child-oriented updates will also let developers build gadgets that include compatible kid-friendly skills.

The toolkit is invitation-only and focused on businesses in the US, UK and Germany, so this isn’t available to absolutely anyone. Amazon does have big name partners like Hasbro, TOMY and WowWee , and the first products (including smart plush toys and Gemmy’s Big Mouth Billy Bass) are due before 2018 is over.

While the restrictions aren’t going to make do-it-yourself enthusiasts happy, this does promise to significantly expand the Echo ecosystem. Companies won’t need to implement sophisticated processors, audio capture or cloud services. Instead, they can let an Echo do the heavy lifting and focus on a gadget’s special features. Don’t be shocked if an Echo quickly becomes a must-have component for play time, or even around-the-house widgets like clocks and timers.

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Google's own smart display is reportedly the $149 Home Hub


MySmartPrice

On October 9th, Google will reveal its latest hardware lineup. Rumors have spread for some time that the company is preparing to unveil a smart display at the event, and a leak unearthed by MySmartPrice corroborates the existence of the device, indicating that it will be called Home Hub. Meanwhile, a separate leak of a retail listing suggests the smart display will cost $149, according to Android Authority.

The Home Hub appears to have a seven-inch screen and apes the design of Google’s other smart home products such as Google Home Max and Mini. The Google Assistant-powered device is said to weigh just 480 grams, which as the same as Google Home. Home Hub may be available in charcoal as well as the chalk finish in the leaked images.

Along with time, weather and transit information, you’ll likely be able to use Home Hub to view Nest Cam footage and access Google Photos. On the back of the display, there’s a physical switch to turn off the microphones. However, it seems there won’t be a front-facing camera for you to have Duo calls with your friends and family.

The lack of a camera and the relatively small screen could be a factor in helping Google keep the cost lower than competitors such as the $199 Lenovo Smart Display and the $250 JBL Link View. We’ll likely find out more details about Home Hub at Google’s fall hardware event next month, at which the company is also expected to reveal its Pixel 3 phones.

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Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones review: Goodbye, Bose

Sony’s WH-1000XM3 headphones are the sort of dream gadget I can review succinctly in one sentence: They’re incredibly comfortable, and they sound amazing. That’s it. End review. When the first 1000XM pair debuted in 2016, they weren’t just another set of premium cans — they were a sign that Sony was ready to take on Bose for the high-end noise canceling crown. The company managed to deliver something that sounded better than Bose’s best headsets while matching them at their own game. Now with its third version, Sony is giving us little reason to look elsewhere. The $350 WH-1000XM3 are basically the ideal pair of wireless noise canceling headphones.

Gallery: Sony 1000XM3 headphones | 7 Photos

Engadget Score


Poor


Uninspiring


Good


Excellent

Key

from $349.00

94

Pros
  • Excellent sound quality and comfort
  • Noise canceling is best in class
  • Generous battery life
Cons
  • A premium price Google Assistant isn’t very useful
  • Touch controls are still finicky

Summary

Sony’s WH-1000XM3 aren’t just a great pair of noise canceling headphones, they’re quality cans period. While you used to have to choose between great sound quality and decent noise reduction, the 1000XM3 do both while being a blast to listen to.

While the previous model was a slight upgrade over the original, Sony re-built the 1000XM3 (Mark 3) from the ground up. In the process, it fixed most of the line’s lingering issues. For one, it’s significantly more comfortable, thanks to a generous amount plush cushioning around the pads and headband, as well as extra room for large ears (thanks, Sony). It’s also lighter, and it no longer leaves a noticeable gap around your head while wearing them. And despite all that, the 1000XM3 is actually more compact when it folds up, making it easier to travel with. (I had to look up directions to get them in the case correctly though — it’s not very intuitive if you’ve never done it before.)


Sony’s 1000XM3 (left) vs the 1000XM2 (right)
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Sony’s biggest upgrade for the WH-1000XM3 is a new noise canceling chip, the QN1. The company claims its four times better than the previous model at reducing external sound. Sony previously integrated noise canceling into the headphone’s DAC, but the QN1 is a completely standalone chip. That separation also gives each of the components more room to work without getting in each other’s way. It’s also why Sony is able to deliver 32 bit audio processing with the 1000XM3. While that won’t make a huge difference for typical compressed music files, it should console people dedicated to their lossless tracks. The headphones also feature Sony’s LDAC codec, which has three times the bandwidth of Bluetooth and supports high-resolution 24-bit/96 kHz music.

There’s something almost magical about a great pair of headphones — they make music come alive, no matter what you’re playing. The 1000XM3 are simply fun to listen to, with a healthy dose of thumping bass and sparkling clarity in the mid and high-range. They’re definitely not neutral headphones, which many audiophiles prefer. Instead, the WH-1000XM3 are loaded with personality — it doesn’t matter that the bass is sometimes overbearing. Dare I say it: enjoyment matters more than accuracy.

It really didn’t matter what I threw at it — Led Zeppelin’s discography, Tan Dun’s sweeping and bombastic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero scores, or Yoko Kanno’s classic ’90s anime soundtracks (I’ll never stop listening to Cowboy Bebop) — the 1000XM3 proved itself to be one the best headphones I’ve encountered. You know you’re hearing something special when you can unearth new details in songs you’ve listened to hundreds of times. There were moments when the 1000XM3’s sound stage was so transparent, as if I was listening to a live performance. I had to stop myself from clapping on more than one occasion.

I’ve tested plenty of high-end headphones that sound great, but for one reason or another, are a pain to wear for too long. Sometimes the headbands are too tight, or they end up hurting your ears. But in my dozens of hours wearing the 1000XM3 — including on most of an eight hour flight to Berlin from NYC — I never felt any discomfort. The earcups and head band are pillowy soft, and they’re breathable enough to keep my ears from getting sweaty. I also appreciated that these headphones are lighter than the last model, at times I forgot I was even wearing them. My only complaint is Sony’s touch controls on the right earcup. They work decently most of the time, but they occasionally skipped a track when I mean to turn up the volume.

What truly pushes the 1000XM3 into must buy territory is its noise cancelling. In a head-to-head comparison with the previous model, the new headphones managed to block out noticeably more noise from a loudspeaker playing directly in front of me. It wasn’t exactly night and day, but it was still enough of a difference to tell that Sony isn’t kidding about the advantages of its QN1 chip. During that flight to Berlin, the usual loud drone of the airplane cabin turned into a pleasant hum. And once I started playing music and watching in-flight movies, the cabin noise all but disappeared. Similarly, the headphones did a fantastic job during my subway commute, turning the noisy and crowded cars into a sanctuary of music and podcasts when I closed my eyes.


Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

I’m not one of those New Yorkers that enjoys walking around with large headphones, especially noise canceling cans. Situational awareness is an important thing when you’re dodging pedestrians, traffic and the daily surprises of city life. Typically, I just stroll with a pair of wireless earbuds, with one in my left ear. I felt less anxious moving around town with the 1000XM3, though, since its ambient sound modes did a fantastic job of bringing in outside noise.

You can access it by hitting a button on the left ear or by jumping into Sony’s Connect mobile app, which lets you adjust how much external sound you let in. There’s also a handy option to focus on voices, which is useful if you’re wearing the headphones in a noisy office but still need to hear your colleagues. And if you don’t want to deal with constantly changing settings, there’s Adaptive Sound Control, which tweaks the noise canceling based on your environment. It usually reduces all noise when you’re sitting still, but lets in ambient sound once you start walking around.

Sony’s app also lets you customize the noise canceling to your ear profile by playing back a series of tones while you’re wearing the headphone. And it can also tweak the feature based on your current atmospheric pressure, which should make it work even better on planes.I’ll be honest, it’s tough to tell if those app tweaks actually improved things. But it was enough a placebo to make me think the headphones were actually custom tuned for me. You can also integrate Google Assistant into the 1000XM3 through Sony’s app, which turns the noise canceling button on the left earcup into an Assistant prompt. While the feature works fine, I prefer having sound controls within easy reach. If Sony really wants to go all in with Google Assistant, it should at least have a dedicated button.

Sony claims the 1000XM3 gets 30 hours of battery life, and that’s not far off from my testing. It survived my flight to Berlin, as well as several days of constant use without needing a recharge. Sony also added a USB-C port for charging, which is convenient if you’re already gathering devices supporting that new standard. If you have a well powered USB-C connection (or Sony’s AC adapter), the headphones will have five hours of charge after just 10 minutes.

Bose has long been the king of noise canceling headphones, but Sony has put up a good fight over the years with the 1000XM line. This latest iteration is the knockout punch Sony needs (especially since Bose is still struggling to combine decent noise canceling with high quality sound in its headphones). The biggest downside with the 1000XM3 is its $350 price tag. That’s the same as Bose’s latest QuietComfort, so at least it’s competitive. If you want something that’s almost as good, though, take a look at Sony’s Hear On 2 headphones. They’re not as comfortable as the 1000XM3, but you can find them refurbished under $150.

Based on its fit and sound quality alone, the WH-1000XM3 is one of the best headphones I’ve ever used. But the addition of killer noise canceling integration also makes it one of the most useful pieces of gear you can have. During one particularly busy morning on my Brooklyn block, the 1000XM3 helped me keep my sanity as a semi-truck and row of cars honked outside my window for half an hour. It didn’t completely drown out the noise, but it reduced the truck’s horn from ear-piercing to minor nuisance. And once I started playing music, I was able to ignore it entirely. Sometimes, it’s just nice to have instant quiet on demand.

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'Fortnite' Switch bundle arrives October 5th with in-game perks


Nintendo

Back in June, Fortnite fans cheered when the popular game arrived on the Nintendo Switch. But starting October 5th, fans of the battle royale shooter can express their love for the game in a new way: a Nintendo Switch bundle featuring special items from the game. The set retails for the same price as a regular Nintendo Switch console, $300.

While the Fortnite Bundle won’t feature a custom designed console (you get the red and blue Joy-Con version instead), the set comes with 1,000 V-Bucks (Fortnite‘s currency, which can be used to purchase in-game items and/or a Battle Pass) and the Double Helix set, which is a unique Character Outfit, Pickaxe, Glider and Back Bling. The game itself is free to download on any Nintendo Switch console and will remain free to play after the launch of the Switch’s online service.

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Google's 'Family Link' parental controls expands to teens

“Family Link,” Google’s parental controls for Android and Chromebooks, is growing up. Well, in a sense. For one, it’s no longer limited to kids — soon adults will also be able to manage their teen’s devices with existing Google accounts. Wisely, that can only occur with the teenager’s permission, and they can also “unlock” their devices after parental controls are enabled (though that’ll send an alert to parents).

The idea isn’t to control teens, instead it’s a way for adults to still be involved as their kids grow more attached to devices. Parents won’t be able to change teen’s devices or change their passwords, like they can for younger children.

Additionally, Google says Family Link is coming to “almost every” country in the world. Given just how early kids get their hands on phones and tablets these days, that’s a smart move. Family Link is also getting more useful for families with Google Home devices — parents will be able to lock and locate devices with just a voice command. And that smart speaker is also getting more useful for kids, with the ability to answer questions in a child-friendly way, as well as tell stories. While Family Link can’t do much with Chromebooks yet, Google says it’ll offer app controls for parents eventually.

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Audi rips the camouflage off its E-Tron electric SUV

Audi finally took the wraps off its E-Tron pure electric SUV. At an event in Northern California, the automaker stripped off the QR code-esque wrap from the vehicle and announced how you can reserve your own and for how much.

Gallery: Audi E-Tron | 26 Photos

Starting at $74,800, the E-Tron is clearly aimed at those also considering the Jaguar I-Pace (starting at $69,500) and Tesla Model X (starting at $79,500). You know, people with lots of money. Like those other two vehicles, the E-Tron is packed to the electrified gills with technology including some innovative ideas.

One of the coolest new features is the E-Tron’s braking system. Brakes, while incredibly important, don’t usually get their due. On the new Audi, there are two braking systems. The typical friction-based system that uses brake pads, pressed against rotors to slow the vehicle down and also an electronic system that uses the two motors to slow the car down.

Audi says that in 90 percent of typical driving the electronic system will slow the car without the friction brakes. The system will work at up to 0.3 g (G-forces. One equals the gravitational pull of the Earth). Anything more than that and the friction brakes are ready to take over nearly instantaneously, according to Audi.

Audi says that its researchers have determined that the braking system (which is also 30 percent lighter than a typical brake system) can be responsible for up to 30 percent of the vehicle’s range in optimal conditions.

When the two motors aren’t bringing the car to a stop, they can propel it from zero to 60 in 5.5 seconds in boost mode. Regular mode will get the car up to 60 in 6.6 seconds. The motors are powered by a 95 kWh battery pack that’s populated with 4323 cells in 96 modules. In boost mode, it puts out 300 kW of power and 664 Nm of torque. That’s roughly 400 horsepower and 489 foot-pounds of torque, although Audi says the final US spec numbers aren’t available yet.

The battery supports up to 150kW DC fast charging and will charge from zero to 80 percent in 30 minutes (For comparison: The I-Pace on a 100kW charger will go from zero to 80 percent in 40 minutes). Owners will get 1,000kW of free charging (a bit more than 10 free charge ups from zero to 100 percent although most people rarely go from dead zero to 100 percent at a station) from Electrify America (a subsidiary of Volkswagen America the parent company of Audi) over four years. If you’ve never heard of this charging company, you’re not alone. But the company is expected to open 484 stations in the United States by the end of 2019. So fingers crossed if you buy an E-Tron they open one up near you.

Inside, the E-Tron has the latest version of Audi’s dual display MMI along with an interior that’s badged with the E-Tron logo with gold accents. Fancy.

Audi also wants to sell the car with side-mirror cameras instead of actual mirrors. In addition to being cool looking, they cut down on wind resistance. Unfortunately, US regulations prohibit Audi from offering them in the United States. So we’re stuck with regular side mirrors. Audi will be delivering an E-Tron to NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) to test the side camera solution but can’t say if or when the agency will allow the tech on US roads. Sort of like the Matrix Lights that are unavailable in this country.

Audi will also offer short-term subscriptions for some of the E-Tron’s features. For example, if you never use adaptive cruise control in your normal commute, but you have a very long drive coming up, you can “rent” it and have it added to the vehicle for a predetermined amount of time. The same can be done with the Matrix lights (in regions where they are allowed). Like the other Audi vehicles like the A7, the Matrix hardware will be on the car, it’s just a matter of turning it on. For folks that want to test drive a feature before committing to it, it’s a nice way to try something out before dropping cash on it.

The automaker also announced that, in the future, the E-Tron and its chargers will be updated to support sharing energy with the grid. For example, if your SUV is connected to the charger instead the power company spinning up an additional power station, the E-Tron along with other electric vehicles that support the function could sell energy back to the system. No word on when that’ll go live.

There are also some things we didn’t learn, like the range based on EPA estimates. Audi says that the E-Tron will get over 400 kilometers (248.5 miles) using the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). The EPA method is more stringent, but once the official numbers come in (the vehicle is being tested now), we’re guessing at least over 200 miles of range. The horsepower and torque specs are also not finalized (as noted above). Those details should be available when the SUV gets closer to being delivered which should be in the second quarter of 2019.

If you’re itching for an electric Audi, you can place a reservation now with a fully refundable $1,000 deposit. If you’re looking to splurge, you can get one of the $86,700 First Edition models. Only 999 will be sold and will have fancy orange accents inside and 21-inch wheels. Once we get some time behind the wheel, we’ll be better able to determine how well it stacks up against the I-Pace and Model X.

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Amazon might launch eight Alexa devices this fall


Pascal Rossignol / Reuters

Amazon is ready to drop a whole slew of new Alexa devices, CNBC reports. At least eight new devices including a microwave oven, an amplifier, a subwoofer and some sort of in-car gadget are reportedly set to be released before the end of the year. All of the devices will be Alexa-enabled while some will have the virtual assistant built in, according to people familiar with the matter.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos highlighted how important Alexa is for the company in July. “We want customers to be able to use Alexa wherever they are,” he said in an earnings report. “There are now tens of thousands of developers across more than 150 countries building new devices using the Alexa Voice Service, and the number of Alexa-enabled devices has more than tripled in the past year.” With Alexa becoming ever more ubiquitous, some of these new devices are going to end up competing with existing Alexa-enabled hardware from other companies, including products from Sonos, GE, Garmin and others.

According to an internal document CNBC got its hands it, the company has plans to unveil some of these devices at an event scheduled later this month.

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Audi: Autonomous cars alone won’t solve traffic jams

It’s easy to think that once cars start driving themselves most of our traffic woes will be eliminated. Robocars are supposed to be better drivers and better driving should mean less gridlock. Unfortunately, that drop in bumper to bumper hell won’t be as big as we all hoped, according to Audi’s research.

At Audi’s Charged event (where it will unveil the E-Tron), the automaker gave Engadget a sneak peek at its latest 25th Hour Flow research. The company (along with Karlsruhe Institute for Technology and Munich’s MobilityPartners) peered into the future to see how drivers and passengers can reclaim time thanks to autonomous driving and mobility options. During this year’s research, Audi looked at traffic flow in Ingolstadt, Germany the home of its headquarters.

The researchers learned that a city with 100 percent self-driving cars will reduce commute times by a third, even with 10 percent more vehicles on the road. But that vehicle utopia is decades away and, in the meantime, city streets are increasingly strangled by cars during morning and evening commutes. Basically, it’s going to take more than self-driving cars to make our roads less congested.

“Automation will not solve the problems alone,” Martin Margreiter, traffic expert and founder at MobilityPartners Munich said during a briefing. Cities themselves need to take action even if it’s incremental. That includes municipal transportation districts and automakers sharing data with each other. The more information both sides have about traffic conditions, the better they can react to how people travel through a city. For Audi’s part, it’s worked with Las Vegas on its traffic light countdown technology. It’s a first step and could be helpful in other cities. Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size fits all solution.

You can’t compare one city to another,” said Melanie Goldmann head of Trend Communication at Audi. The team chose Ingolstadt not just because it’s the headquarters (but mostly because) but also it’s an average-sized city without much of a public transportation network. While Audi is learning quite a lot from its study, it’s quick to point out that not everything it learns in its hometown will translate to other areas.

The one thing that will work universally is increasing the occupancy rate in cars. According to Audi’s research, with a rise in persons per vehicle from 1.1 to 1.3 (with only 20 percent of the cars on the roads being self-driving), commute times would drop by 12 percent — even with 4 percent more people on the roads. As the rate of automated vehicles with multiple riders rises (including buses), Audi foresees cities reclaiming space used by cars to be utilized by bikes, pedestrians and even adding parks and other green areas to a road once packed with gridlock. It calls this scenario: Balance.

You can check all the scenarios and how they affect traffic thanks to the handy tool the automaker built for its research below.

Frankly, that’s what we need. A balance of all involved taking part to reduce congestion and reclaim the massive amount of space cars take up in our cities. It involves making decisions that work best for an area and implementing them. It won’t happen overnight and it’ll be tough for municipal areas strapped for cash.

But, if people are willing to start sharing rides now (that includes taking the bus) and urging their elected officials to make incremental changes towards a smarter infrastructure when autonomous cars do finally land on our streets, the benefits will be impressive. Because alone, a self-driving car with a single passenger is barely better than a car with only the driver behind the wheel.

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